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Swedish jets play defensive role in Finnish Air Force exercises

About 50 aircraft, including Swedish Gripen fighters, are taking part in the Air Force's main annual exercise through Saturday. The Karelia Air Command plays the role of the attacker in the manoeuvres.

The Karelia Air Command's Hornet fighters will challenge defending Swedish Gripen fighters during the Ruska 22 exercise. Image: Ilmavoimat

The Finnish Air Force's main exercise of the year began on Monday. Around 3,700 personnel in various parts of Finland will take part, including some 2,400 reservists. The annual six-day exercise is dubbed Ruska, referring to autumn foliage.

All units of the Finnish Air Force are involved in the manoeuvres, flying about 50 aircraft, mostly US-built F-18 Hornet multirole combat aircraft.

Also participating are Hawk jet training aircraft, transport and communication planes, Army NH90 transport helicopters and Swedish Air Force Gripen fighters.

The Swedish aviation unit will play the role of Finnish air defence in the exercise, while the Karelia Air Command will act as attackers.

Lieutenant Colonel Eetu Rikkinen, commander of Fighter Squadron 31 of the Karelia Air Command, said that his pilots have been training with their Swedish counterparts for a long time.

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Lt Col Eetu Rikkinen of the Karelia Air Command. Image: Sami Takkinen / Yle

Finnish Air Force pilots have participated annually in the Swedish Air Force's main exercises, and the Swedes have operated as a defensive group from the Rissala Air Base in manoeuvres with the Karelia Air Command.

"Our cooperation has been seamless," Rikkinen told Yle.

Now the situation is different, as the Swedes are on the opposing side.

According to Rikkinen, Karelia Air Command pilots will try to challenge them and create a realistic simulation of actual combat operations.

"It will be interesting to see how they react," said Rikkinen.

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Swedish Gripen fighters play the part of Finnish air defenders in the exercise. Image: Tomi Jokela / AOP

The exercise includes flying at low-altitude flights as well as supersonic flights, which will be carried out at an altitude of more than 10 kilometres.

The planes taking part will fire flares, which may be seen as bright light phenomena in the sky.

The training is set to end on Saturday afternoon.

This past summer, British F-35B fighter jets took part in training activities with the Karelia Air Command. That was part of a series of stepped-up joint exercises with Nato forces since Finland and Sweden applied to join the alliance in May.

Late last year, Finland decided to buy 64 new US-made F-35A jets to replace its ageing Hornet fleet.

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